In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to discuss the controversial comments by a religious leader promoting the beating of women into submission.
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Now, let’s talk about the controversial comments by a religious leader promoting the beating of rebellious wives.
Pat Robertson is a media mogul, television evangelist, ex-Baptist minister and businessman. On the “The 700 Club” TV show on The Christian Broadcasting Network, a viewer, Michael, asked Pat for help with his wife whom he claimed was insulting him and destroying his confidence and self-esteem:
“My wife has become a real problem. She has no respect for me as the head of the house. She insults me and even went as far as stretching her hand to beat me. I’ve lost my self-confidence. Her words hurt so much and she refuses to talk through our problems. Please tell me what I can do.”
Pat Robertson responded with:
“Well you could become a Muslim and you could beat her…this man’s gotta stand up to her and he can’t let her get away with this stuff. And, you know, I don’t think we condone wife-beating these days but something has got to be done.”
The obvious implication by Pat Robertson’s words is that wife beating is the solution to this problem, and that it was condoned once upon a time in the US and we can look to the Muslims to see the way they handle their rebellious wives – by beating them into submission.
Pat Robertson proceeds to analyze the woman and suggests that she needs to submit to the authority of her husband:
“She doesn’t want to submit to any authority…She doesn’t understand authority…She is acting like a child. Now, what do you do with that? You can’t divorce her according to the scripture. And so I say, move to Saudi Arabia.”
And yes, Pat Robertson had a chuckle as he uttered those final words. But his final point nonetheless, is that since wife-beating is not condoned any longer in the US, Michael could move to Saudi Arabia where he could beat her into submission without fear of reprisal.
One year ago, again on the “The 700 Club” TV show, Pat Robertson was asked what advice a man should give to a friend who began seeing another woman after his wife started suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Surprisingly, Pat Robertson promoted divorcing her even though as noted above Robertson told Micheal, “You can’t divorce her according to the scripture.”
“I know it sounds cruel, but if he’s going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again, but make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her”, Robertson said referring to the man with the wife who has Alzheimer’s.
But this article is not about the debate surrounding grounds for divorce nor the consistencies or inconsistencies of the teachings of Pat Robertson. Rather, this article is about the specific teachings that promote violence against women, its use to force women to submit to male authority and the implications of using violence to force people to submit.
There are many marriages, particularly in Christian traditional households, where both partners agree that the man is head of the household and whereby they choose to defer final decisions to him. But that choice is not the same as encouraging a man to beat his wife until she submits to his authority. Every married couple must determine for themselves the way decisions will be made.
It is also true that according to the Old Testament and Mosaic Law (which also approved the marriage of a man to more than one woman), violence and killing was condoned with the approval and encouragement of the stoning to death of disobedient children, the forced marriage of female captives, the killing of people who work on the Sabbath, and the killing of a woman who is found on her wedding night not to be a virgin. (See Deuteronomy 22:20-21; Deuteronomy 21:10-21 and Exodus 35:2-3.)
But those Laws were replaced by Jesus who taught two commandments – to love God and to love thyself as thy neighbor.
Again, the point here is not to debate religious teachings but rather focus on the dangerous teachings of promoting violence against women and violence against anyone who is deemed to be rebellious or disrespectful.
In November 2011, a video went viral featuring a couple taking turns beating their disabled 16-year-old daughter into submission. The cell phone video that was taken in 2004, showed Judge William Adams, of Rockport, Texas, repeatedly striking Hillary Williams with a belt for playing a video game online without his permission. Hillary was diagnosed with ataxic cerebral palsy as a young girl and says she suffered years of abuse.
Domestic violence is a serious issue that cannot be laughed at or joked about. It is a crime – one of the most chronically underreported crimes. And the words of Pat Robertson suggesting beating a woman into submission only serves to encourage the crime of domestic violence.
One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime with more than 1.3 million women being victims of a physical assault by an intimate partner each year. Every day in the US, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends.
Domestic violence also often involves children. Up to 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence each year with serious ramifications that perpetuate the crime:
- Witnessing violence between one’s parents or caretakers is the strongest risk factor of transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next
- Boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults
- 30% to 60% of perpetrators of intimate partner violence also abuse children in the household.
Regardless of the teachings by people in authority such as religious leaders or even family members, violence against women cannot be condoned and women experiencing any form of abuse or violence should seek immediate help. Studies show that access to shelter services leads to a 60 – 70% reduction in the incidence and severity of re-assault during the 3 – 12 months’ follow up period compared to women who did not access shelter. Shelter services led to greater reduction in severe re-assault than did seeking court or law enforcement protection, or moving to a new location. (Campbell, JC, PhD, RN, FAAN. Anna D. Wolf, Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, Protective Action and Re-assault: Findings from the RAVE study.)
See also The Domestic Violence Resource Center for services, resources and statistics: http://www.dvrc-or.org/domestic/violence/resources/C61/
And read more about “Battered Woman’s Syndrome” http://patrickwanis.com/blog/battered-womans-syndrome/ and my article “Bias, prejudice and domestic violence” http://patrickwanis.com/blog/bias-prejudice-domestic-violence/
Finally, rather than promoting violence against women or beating people into submission, leaders and people in the media should be teaching the most important commandment – love.
Love is the greatest commandment – not submission or beating women, wives or children – regardless of their rebelliousness. Love and respect for thyself, thy neighbor and thy family is a powerful and transformative spiritual teaching. Love leads to mutual respect – wife to husband, husband to wife, parents to children and children to parents. Love and respect is what creates the bond and glue between a husband, wife and their family.
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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”
Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist